The information on the various parts of coins is often more precious than their face value. However, some people may not understand what they mean despite the familiarity of their use.
In addition to the use of coins in everyday purchases and payments, it is well known to flip a coin and, depending on which side is visible, make a decision. This ancient game, called heads or tails, owes its name to the way of calling the obverse and reverse of the coin and varies according to the country or historical period.
For example, in the Middle Ages, the face of the monarch was usually placed on the obverse and the cross was placed on the reverse; thus the political and ecclesiastical power was represented on the coin, respectively.
Why is it important to know the different parts of the coins?
Although today the coin is one of the most widely used means of economic exchange in the world, its use dates back to pre-Christian times. For collectors, the parts of coins yield important and valuable information.
Saving distances, it could be said that knowing the parts of a coin for a numismatic expert is like knowing the human body for a doctor . In fact, it is often said that the parts of the coins make up their anatomy.
Each coin is unique, since in each of its parts there are a number of historical and cultural references, being an interesting window to the past. In addition to these references, it is essential when it comes to distinguishing counterfeit coins from genuine ones.
The different parts of a coin for numismatics, are usually a kind of manual of knowledge about the real value of the coin. Sometimes even its price can be extraordinary. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why coin collecting is a growing interest all over the world.
Most important parts of a coin
One of the key skills of collectors is observation, and this is fundamental to know the parts of coins and their meaning . It could be said that coins have their own distinctive identity. Recognizing the information contained in their composition, or in their different parts, is a guide to unveil part of the story.
The main parts of coins are:
- The obverse: Known as the face, it is the main side. It presents the emblem, effigy or most representative design of the issuing country. It may contain a patriotic symbol or the face of a renowned personage.
- The reverse: Also called cross or seal, it is the secondary side. It usually shows the nominal value and the informative part, such as the weight, grade or composition of the mineral of manufacture. Generally, it presents a less representative design, such as coats of arms or scenes of political and/or social events.
- Border: This is the edge that separates the obverse from the reverse. It usually has different thickness and can be smooth, striated, discontinuous striped, with grooves, symbols or letters.
- Rim: Known as listel or border. It is the part that protrudes from the edge and surrounds the perimeter of the coin. Its function is to protect the coin from wear due to continuous handling.
- Motto: It may appear on the obverse or reverse. It is usually a phrase representative of a national ideal of the country of issue.
- Mint Mark: Term of Arabic origin, meaning “house of purification”. It is the mintmark of the mint. It identifies the city of the mint or issuing bank. It is usually represented by acronyms or symbols. There are records of coins from the 7th century B.C. that already had mints.
- Date: It indicates the date of minting, it may even have an additional date of the year of approval of the law of issuance of the coin. In the West, this date is governed by the Gregorian calendar. In some cultures, it may be governed by the Islamic or Muslim calendar, or even be in other numerical alphabets.
- Edge: From the Greek ex-ergu, it means “outside the work”. It is usually at the bottom of the coin. It contains the mint mark, the mint date, the engraver’s initials or some particular data.
- Field: This is the bottom or smooth part of the coin that is not minted. It is the background where the portrait or relief is engraved, both on the obverse and on the reverse.
- Portrait: This is the main motif or engraving on the coin. It is usually in relief and represents the central theme. Generally, when a face appears, it is called effigy of the coin; they are usually important characters, such as monarchs or national heroes. It may contain other representative figures, such as animals, natural or architectural elements.
- Relief: Refers to the different shapes that make up the figure or effigy of the coin, which stands out on the coin’s field.
- Caption: Usually part of the main motif, it is a typographic inscription on the obverse or reverse. It may include the place and value of the coin and serves for its transaction. It has a historical meaning, since it allows the identification of the era or type of alphabet. It usually contains the motto, phrase or thought associated with the identity of the issuing country.
- Designer’s initials: These are the initials of the engraver, maker or designer of the piece, also known as assayer in numismatics.
In addition to knowing only the name of the faces of a coin, these coins offer, in printed form, a short biographical sketch of the nation of origin. When the different parts of the coins are analyzed in detail, an interesting journey through time takes place.
Perhaps the collector’s passion is born out of an interest in learning about the history, politics and culture of a country. In addition to the beauty of the challenge to find that unique piece, of exclusive value, which makes it coveted in the eyes of numismatic experts.
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